Mia was born after a gruelling 36 hour labour. I remember cradling her in my arms, saying “You took your time!” She was perfect, a tiny little doll like girl! I had been daunted by the idea of parenthood, but gladly took to it like a duck to water. I’d had no experience of babies or small children at all. I watched Mia learn to eat, sit, and walk with joy. I didn’t know the sounds she was making were not following a normal pattern. She was making sounds, but they were not syllabic or varied like her younger brother’s were at a young age. When she was 1 year old, and not saying anything at all, no “Mummy” not even a ”Mama or “Mmm”. Just single, unvaried sounds. I called a health visitor, who assured me, without seeing Mia at all, that if she was making sounds she was probably fine. She said all children are different, progressing in different things at different speeds.
Life carried on in much the same vein. At 18 months old, I called the health visitor again. The discussion followed the same thread. In my ignorance, I trusted what I heard without question. Friends who were witnessing their own children’s babble turn into speech were looking on with concern in their faces. I assured them I had consulted the health visitors and all children develop at different speeds. She seemed so OK in other areas I was assured.
At some point, probably around Mia’s second birthday, I arranged to go on a waiting list to see a speech and language therapist. It was the beginning of waiting lists. Our initial meetings with the speech and language therapist gave us nothing – no idea of what might be going on. It’s difficult to assess a child with no speech output. Why was our beautiful daughter not speaking? We, like most, had not heard of a Speech and Language Impairment. Trawling the internet we learnt about Verbal Dyspraxia and wondered it this was the answer.
The Speech and Lanugage Therapist referred us to the Child Development Centre in Leeds. It was over a year of waiting before we saw the Complex Communication Disorders team,. During this time Mia was a screaming, tantruming, violent bundle of frustration. At night sometimes she would sob in my arms. My mother, Mia’s Grandma was fed up with the waiting too.
“You have to fight for her,” she said “no one else will.”
She was right. I contacted PALS (Patient Advice and Liason Service) to see if we could move up the waiting list, due to the severity of Mia’s problem and the sorry tale of events that lead to a very late referral. All to no avail. It was the decision to see a private therapist that started us on the road to discovery. With help from family, we paid an experienced independent Speech and Language Therapist to come and see Mia in our home. Her first impression was Verbal Dyspraxia, but she felt there was more going on. The ‘more’ was Auditory Processing Disorder and a Speech and Language Impairment. The language areas of Mia’s brain had not developed normally.
I learnt Makaton sign language to give Mia a means of basic communication. She could begin to learn to tell us what she wanted. We started work on speech sounds. I remember we came from nothing – there was not one sound that she could say voluntarily.
Mia’s daddy and I can sometimes work out what Mia is telling us by knowing her take on Makaton, gestures, her extremely limited (but improved!) speech output and knowing the context and Mia herself very well. But not always! We still have tantrums and frustration. Her ability to communicate has progressed enormously from those early days, but it is still very limiting for a bright and imaginative little girl. She has no real ‘friends’. It is such a huge barrier. She can run and chase with other children, but with such limited means of communication friendship as most of us see it is difficult. We take care to give her as happy an existence as possible. Our life is like one, long, complicated game of charades between me (Mia’s Mummy), her daddy and Mia. She has made enough progress for us to know, beyond doubt, that with the right therapy Mia can become an effective verbal communicator. The brain is amazing and can utilise different pathways to give Mia speech and enable her to use and understand language. With help, we can give Mia a voice.